A Mixed Up Minister?
What insights does the book of Jonah have for ministers today?
Led by The Revd Tom Stuckey, a former President of the Methodist Church.
To live is Christ and to die is gain
I will always remember Rob speaking those words. We were sitting on the bench in his garden in Devon, the bench where, he said, he would often sit and pray. It was the last time I saw him, a week before he died. As we chatted, I could tell that he knew this could be the last time we would speak. We had spent the day together, drinking cappuccinos in a local coffee shop and then he had shown me round his new house. As we sat on the bench, chatting, Rob spoke of the uncertainty of the future, but amidst all that uncertainty his unshakeable faith shone clearly through. I am so grateful for that day. It was such a precious time, a real gift from God.
I will always be grateful for the influence Rob has had on my life and ministry. It was Rob who talked me through the questions and concerns I had about the Methodist Church all those years ago and put my mind at rest about entering the Methodist Ministry. Later, Rob was amongst the few people that stood up and fought for me during the troubles I faced whist training. In fact, Rob knew about those troubles before I did! Once the news had broken, it wasn’t long before Rob had invited me down to London, where we sat in his dining room, talking and praying together. It was Rob who encouraged me to enter the Methodist Ministry and Rob who encouraged me to keep going when the temptation to give up was at its greatest.
I learned so much about ministry through working with Rob on Share Jesus Missions, at Easter People and on other projects. He had a great way of encouraging and empowering young leaders and I certainly found that the best way to learn was by being ‘thrown in at the deep end’, whilst knowing there was always support available when needed. I have so many wonderful memories of those Share Jesus and Easter People days! I remember sitting on a beach in Newquay, chatting with Rob. His son Andy was leading his first Dawn Patrol mission and I was there helping him. Rob said that he had been thinking about the fact that exactly thirty years ago, he had been on that same beach with my mother running his first mission and now there we were -his son and her son - and I was helping Andy run his first mission. The Lord moves in mysterious ways!
Of course, those times of working with Rob were always filled with a lot of laughter and there are too many funny stories to write about them all here. Rob’s enthusiasm as matchmaker never dimmed. In both Singapore and America I have been told, ‘Rob Frost told us to set you up with a beautiful girl!’ In fact, they were the first words with which I was greeted the first time I stepped off a plane in Singapore! After the fifth Singaporean had said the same thing to me, I sent Rob a text message. He happened to be in Poland at the time and replied that he was now working on the situation there!
It has always amazed me that, although Rob was one of the busiest people I have known, he always had time for others. I greatly valued those times when his name would appear on my caller ID and he would be phoning just to see how things were going. Those phone calls were always such an encouragement. I’ve always loved to hear about the impact that Rob’s ministry has had on others. His name has frequently been mentioned at our MET Student Ministers’ and Probationers’ Weekends. At one of the conferences at which Rob spoke, one delegate talked about the debt of gratitude she believed the Methodist Church owed him, because of the number of people who had been encouraged through his ministry to stay within the denomination. At another conference (at which Rob was not present) the speaker asked the student ministers how many of them would attribute their coming to faith or their call to ministry to an experience at Easter People. I was amazed when the vast majority put their hands up!
I will always be thankful for that last Saturday I was able to spend with Rob in Devon. I enjoyed it so much. As we sat round the kitchen table after dinner, we joined in singing the hymn Rob had always hoped would be sung at his funeral: ‘It is well, it is well with my soul’. It was unforgettable. Even now, I can still hear his words, spoken as we sat on the bench in the garden looking out at the Devon countryside:
‘For me to live is Christ and to die is gain’.